I am a ridiculous person

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reknitting the first sleeve

I haven’t had all that much time to knit this week, but I have at least reached elbow-length on the Sleeve That Was Ripped Out By Mistake.

Elbow-length on reknit sleeve, the first.

But that’s not what this post is about. See, my ukulele orchestra is going to be performing in my church’s Spring Equinox services next weekend, and I found out last weekend that we are supposed to wear something yellow. I have nothing in my wardrobe that is yellow, so like any Completely Normal and Reasonable Person, my first thought was: “Oooh, I bet I could get some yellow yarn and knit a Willow Cowl!”

I am a ridiculous person

So I used a gift card I had and picked up a skein of Tosh Merino Light in “Candlewick”. There’s a reason I don’t have anything yellow in my wardrobe, but of all the yellows out there, I kinda like the golden, slightly-greenishness of the “Candlewick” colorway. So…yeah, I’m gonna knit an entire cowl because of one concert. A totally Normal, Reasonable Thing To Do.

I am ridiculous.

Yes, indeed, I am a ridiculous person! But in my defense, I do need a small, portable project to bring with me next week, when I’ll be presenting at the CCCC 2019 conference down in Pittsburgh, and I know from last year that I can knit an entire cowl while at this conference, so I think my prospects of finishing are actually pretty good!

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well…at least my neckband looks good?

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I snuck every bit of knitting time I could into my schedule last week, and I actually FINISHED my sweater!

At least my neckband looks good!

Isn’t that a nice-looking slightly short-rowed, garter stitch + contrast i-cord neckband?

neckband.

But when I was trying the sweater on, I realized that sleeve number two seemed a bit baggier than sleeve number one:

I had an extra 4 stitches in this sleeve :(

I took it off and counted my sleeve stitches, and sure enough, sleeve number two had 4 extra stitches at the underarm, and at 5.25 sts/inch, that makes a noticeable difference in sleeve circumference.

Mistake number one: Why on earth did I not count the stitches in sleeve number two BEFORE I knit the entire sleeve? Dear self: never assume that just because you “did the same thing” when picking up stitches for the second sleeve cap, that you ACTUALLY did the same thing. Check it!

But that wasn’t the end of my mistakes today. Oh, it gets worse, friends. I carefully threaded a lifeline through the top of the baggy sleeve number 2, and then went to rip it out. Except. Except.

Guess which sleeve I *actually* ripped out? The one that actually fit properly. I only realized this after I had ripped almost all the way to the underarm, and then realized that the lifeline wasn’t there…because it was in the sleeve I was *supposed* to be ripping out.

Mistake number two: Attempting to rip out a sleeve (or do anything else that requires attention) when your 7 year old is having a very high-need day? Not a good idea. Dear self: always, always triple check before starting to rip!

Gotta reknit BOTH sleeves, because I'm an idiot.

I…was not happy. But, as I’m always reminding myself and others, the failure mode of knitting is just yarn, and I like yarn, and I like knitting. So, you know, it could be worse. But oh, do I feel like an idiot today! C’est la vie.

Gotta reknit BOTH sleeve, because I'm an idiot.

Here’s hoping the rest of the sleeve knitting is uneventful!

sleeves and sickness

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Look, I have a sleeve!

Sleeve number 1!

I actually wanted to write a post last weekend, while this sleeve was in progress, and even got as far as trying to take progress photos, but, well…

Sickness + sleeve knitting

I couldn’t get a photo in which I wasn’t needing to soak up my dripping nose (and yes, I was resorting to IKEA washcloths due to sheer volume!) or gripping my head because it was pounding and I felt like I could barely hold it up…

Progress photo w/pounding headache.

…which should’ve been a clue to me that maybe, just maybe, I was dealing with more than just a run of the mill cold. Turns out, I had the flu. My flu shot did not save me. And y’all, it was BRUTAL. I had to cancel my Tuesday classes, and then ran my Wednesday and Thursday classes via Google Drive, and just sitting up at my computer to do that left me unable to do ANYTHING else the rest of the day. I’m still feeling a bit run down today, more than a week after I first started having symptoms. Ooof.

By Friday, though, I was able to knit a bit. I remember thinking I was feeling quite a bit better when I took this photo to capture the annoyance of the twisting that you end up having to deal with when you knit sleeves from the top down, but…

Knitting sleeves top-down. I love being able to get them exactly the right length, but the constant need to untwist the sleeve-in-progress is...annoying.

…that is still such a sick and miserable looking face I have on. Oh well!

Anyway, today I’m feeling a little bit more like a human being, if still a very tired and run down human being, so I gave the photos another go. I got some help from my photo assistant (also known as my 7 year old daughter, Madrigal) to take some photos of finished sleeve number one and the start of sleeve number two:

Madrigal helped me take pictures today

Here’s the start of sleeve number two:

Sleeve number 2, in progress.

We didn’t do a great job of capturing the cuff of the first sleeve, but I ended up doing the same thing as I did on M’s original version of the sweater: I knit the cuff in garter stitch in the darker color, and then bound off in i-cord using the lighter color.

Sleeve number 1 and the start of sleeve number 2

I’m excited to be getting so close to finished with this sweater! Once I do, I plan to return to M’s Octopus cardigan; I just haven’t had the time or mental energy to work on complicated colorwork recently, but now that my schedule has settled down a bit, and I’m (mostly) recovered from the flu, maybe I’ll be up for it soon.

I have pockets!

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Almost done with the body!

Yesterday, I went to an all-day silent meditation retreat (as part of training that I’m doing to become a mindfulness educator at my university) and while I didn’t knit at all during the retreat, I had about 45 minutes each way as the passenger in a car, so I was able to knit nearly all of the bottom hem of my stripey sweater! With a bit more time this afternoon working on the i-cord bindoff on the front hem, I now have the entire body of the sweater off the needles!

Ta-da! The body's off the needles!

It’s a little hard to see in this photo (the lighting was so much better this morning than this afternoon, alas!), but the back hem is a bit longer than the front – I split them, and did an extra stripe repeat on the back before beginning the garter band. Then I bound off with an i-cord in the lighter color, kitchenering the ends of the i-cord together so that it’s one continuous cord. I’m pretty pleased with this!

Now that the body is finished, the next step will be knitting the sleeves. I’m not sure when I’ll get a chance to start that – the pick-up/short-row business is pretty attention-intensive, and I’ve got one more incredibly busy week ahead of me before my schedule shifts back to just “normal” levels of busy (which is still pretty busy). But maybe I’ll try to give it a go tonight. For now, I’ll just delight in my pockets!

Pockets!

Now it’s time to grade some assignments and prep some classes for next week. Much less fun than knitting sleeves!

on to the pockets!

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Things have been rather intensely busy here the past couple of weeks (we ended up having our furnace die during the polar vortex and were without heat for several days until we could get a new one, and I’ve had a huge extra workload with workshops, etc, along side that!). I’ve been making progress on my stripey sweater, though – a few rows here, a few rows there, sometimes knitting while my students work on in-class exercises and things. And I’ve actually, as of this morning, finished making the pockets on my sweater. So here are a few notes and details to catch us up!

sweater progress!

Last weekend, I tried on the sweater again, to see if I was where I wanted to be before starting the pockets.

sweater progress, side view

I decided that it was looking good, and just one more repeat of the stripe pattern would get me to where I wanted to be.

sweater progress, back view

To make the pockets, I used the same technique as I’ve been using in the babyStripes! sweaters I’ve been making all these years. I knit a flap down from the light blue stripe for each pocket:

knitting the pocket lining

I edged each flap so that there was a purled stitch 1-stitch in from each edge:

Pocket lining in progress
(This will become relevant in just a bit – there’s a method to my madness!)

Then, when the flaps were finished, I rejoined the yarn at the front and did a 2-stitch i-cord cast on to form the top of the front of the pocket:

2 stitch i-cord cast on for pocket front

After I’d done that, I could simply knit around again, just like I’d been doing before, but each round, I joined the front to the pocket flap.

knitting in the pocket as I go

This is where that purled stitch becomes relevant, because I join the front to the pocket flap by picking up one of the legs of that purl stitch (because it’s a knit-stitch on the back side). This probably makes more sense via video – I’m not 100% sure this embed will work; I think it will just show a still image and you’ll have to click through to Flickr to actual see the video, but here’s how I do this:

How I knit pockets on top-down sweaters.
Click through to Flickr to play video

And, since I happened to be finishing the pocket while I was at work this morning, I rigged up my phone and took another awkward video of how I *finish* the pocket (basically just knitting the held stitches at the bottom of the pocket flap together with stitches on the front – or more accurately, because of the garter-stripe pattern I was creating, I purled them together):

How I finish the pockets!
Click through to Flickr to play video

Now, my plan is to split the front and back, because I want a split-hem that is longer in back. I’ll start the garter-stitch hem almost right away below the pocket on the front, but knit one more stripe repeat on the back before starting that hem. And then, it’ll be time to knit the sleeves!!

sweater progress and other updates

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Accidental closeup
Hi! I’m still me, just with different usernames in a few places

It’s funny – as soon as I posted yesterday, about the conversations regarding racism in the knitting community and grappling with the username I’d had since 2002, it seemed really obvious to me that what I wanted and needed to do was change it. So I did. You can now find me on Ravelry and Instagram as “stringsaremything”. I picked that name because strings truly are my thing – seriously, between knitting and crochet and embroidery, and then violin and ukulele, and heck, even language can be thought of in terms of strings (especially if you’re a former computational linguist like me)…there’s a lot of stringtastic goodness in my life!

On Twitter, I had to go with something a little different, because they have a character limit for usernames. So I went with “saiteliebe”, which is basically “string love” in German; “saite”, though, very specifically refers to strings in a musical context, so I lose some of the scope of my string love, but I keep the German-language connection there, so I think it works. It will probably take me awhile to get used to these new usernames; it’s a little sad to let the old one go, because it had been mine for 17 years, but it felt like the right thing to do.

I think that my old username is probably lurking in a bunch of other less-used sites, too, but I’ll deal with those another day. The big one that I’ve left unchanged for now is Flickr, because I cannot for the life of me figure out what happens to my linked photos if I change my username there; on Ravelry, the change was seamless, and links with my old username simply redirect to the same page under the new username, while on Instagram, it was seamless within the app, but links from outside with the old username no longer work. That wasn’t a big deal for me, because I don’t link to stuff from Instagram. But Flickr? The entire lifetime of my blog’s photos are linked from there, so if I break that, I create a nightmare for myself here. So that’s not changing until I figure out how to do it without breaking everything.

Sweater progress - front!

Anyway, along with those updates, I thought I’d share a little update on the stripey sweater that desperately needs a better name. A row here, a row there, while my students do in-class writing and at night before bed, means that I’ve now reached the point on the sweater where I’m going to be adding some light A-line shaping.

Sweater progress - side/back

I’m putting the increases 12 stitches out from either side of that purled stitch “seam”, which I’m hoping will create the look that I want. We’ll find out!

Sweater progress - back

I still need to decide exactly where I want to start the pockets; I know I want the sweater to hit at the hip, and that I’m planning to split it above the bottom hem so that I can make the back a bit longer than the front, and I want the bottom of the pockets to rest right above the bottom hem on the front. I think there are still quite a few more inches to go before I start them, but I’m going to keep trying it on as I go so that I place them exactly where I want. That’s the best thing about knitting from the top down!

So far, I’ve used a little over 1 ball of the darker blue, and significantly less than a ball of the lighter blue. I started out with 4 balls of each color, so I’m thinking I’ll probably end up with some leftovers. I love knitting with this De Rerum Natura Ulysse yarn, so I’m sure I’ll find something to do with the extras if I have them – maybe a Gliondar hat if I’ve got enough?

racism, knitting, and me

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I had a run of several posts in a row, and then bam, radio silence. Which happened to coincide with some very big conversations about racism within the knitting community. It feels like a very conspicuous time to have gone silent, and I’ve seen people reading meaning into others’ silence and please trust me that my silence? It’s been the silence of an overwhelmed professor at the start of a new semester, one who is teaching 4 classes, one of which is a brand new prep, and trying to finish up data coding and analysis before a conference in March, and also doing volunteer work for church and taking an MBSR training and playing in both an orchestra-orchestra and a ukulele orchestra and raising a differently-wired child and dealing with a blizzard. I’ve just been utterly overwhelmed and haven’t had any real chance to knit or to organize my thoughts in any context other than class prep.

Y’all, back when I was in grad school studying cognitive science, and I was struggling to figure out what my path would look like, I imagined that my dream job would be to somehow combine teaching writing with being a cognitive scientist, and my biggest d
Just a few of the things I read while prepping my new “Cognition & Writing” course

But I *have* been reading along when I get a chance, and I’m really heartened to see that these hard but important conversations about bias and white supremacy and diversity and inclusion are happening not just in my crafty community, but also in my church community (we UUs have a lot of work to do in order to truly live up to our values, and it’s work we’re finally really digging into, both in my congregation and UUism at large).

I think it is probably obvious from the way I write here, and the kinds of things I’ve written about, that I’m someone who cares deeply about these issues and who tries to live out my UU values and work to build that beloved community in which all are truly welcome and valued. I’m also someone who thinks a lot better in “long form” (as is probably obvious once you see the length of this post, ha!). So the way these conversations have been taking place at lightning speed on social media, especially the more “ephemeral” forms of social media like Instagram Stories, just really hasn’t worked well for me, and I think these mediums are especially tricky for certain kinds of brains.

For me, Instagram Stories is borderline unusable as a medium – I never post to it, but I do sometimes try to read/watch what others post, and while I’ve learned the trick of clicking and holding to “pause” a story, getting the timing right is VERY challenging for me, especially if I also have to turn sound on (I never could manage video games that require good eye-hand coordination, either!). And once I screw it up, it’s not at all clear how to “get back” to a particular story (especially when there are SO MANY of them!). It demands a level of uninterrupted attention that is nearly impossible for me to produce (especially with a small child who also demands my uninterrupted attention!). I know that some of my particular difficulties with IG Stories are due to the way my brain is wired – I’m not exactly neurotypical. In particular, I have very divergent visual information processing skills and visual attention, and this causes me a lot of problems in terms of interacting with visually-demanding interfaces. For me, what worked so well about the Internet is that it allowed me to process things in my own time, in words, and my responses could be asynchronous…but mediums like IG Stories don’t really allow for that. At all. I honestly can’t think of a worse medium for this kind of discussion, though it does seem to be working for the folks using it? Or is it working *in spite* of the medium?

I’m thinking about the way the medium favors certain kinds of ways of processing information in part because I’ve noticed a dynamic in which some seem to be imputing support for the status quo to those who have been “silent”, and I think that’s a really problematic take given the nature of the medium involved. But what I think is truly unhealthy about this dynamic is that it pushes people into what can end up being very performative engagement: showing up to be seen showing up, to get credit for showing up. That’s not a dynamic that I want to encourage. Yes, I want people to show up and do the work, but they don’t have to show up *on Instagram* to show up *in the world*, and they can and should do the work without any fanfare or expectation of cookies. I’m not saying that everyone who is posting has done so performatively – I don’t think that’s true, and I think there has been so much value in the discussions that have been taking place, and especially given that this is partly a conversation about visibility, it makes sense that there’d be a focus on what’s visible. It would suck if nobody had showed up in those spaces, and some of the work that needs to be done IS online/social media work. But we don’t all need to show up in the same way, and I think white folks like me need to be VERY careful not to conflate “posting on social media” with “showing up and doing the work”, because those are not the same, and we can end up feeding a dynamic of performative, superficial wokeness that doesn’t actually help. And it might in fact hurt, if this ends up leading people to think that once they’ve made their IG post, they’ve done their work, when the work that needs doing is in fact ongoing and deep. And I’m very mindful that a big part of the problem is that people like me are the only folks who *get* to be visible by default, while other people just don’t get heard, and it’s those marginalized voices that I most want to listen to.

Which brings me to one of the positive things that has come out of these conversations: the call to diversify our social media feeds. This is definitely something people should do! I’ve realized as a result of these conversations that I actually haven’t been following very many crafty BIPOC (the number is well above zero, but it’s not exactly high). But the feeds I follow (especially on Facebook and Twitter) in terms of politics and just general life, and the authors I read, are a LOT more racially diverse. That’s really worth interrogating further – why IS it that my crafty/maker world is quite a bit whiter than my larger (social) media world? How did that happen, and what does it mean? I mean, for me, my crafty social media world grew out of the Flickr Self Portrait/365 Project community, and that group was fairly diverse but still a bit disproportionately white, and I’ve just sort of added interesting people or companies to my feed as they catch my attention when others share them…and it looks like that process didn’t lead to any real diversification. Why is that? This is something that the algorithms underneath FB/IG/Twitter/etc can really exacerbate, but that exacerbation only happens because the bias is already there. So interrogate that. If it was inadvertent or incidental, as it was for me: now that you know it exists, what are you going to do about it? The answer needs to include actually seeking out the voices you’re not currently seeing. This is something I had actively done in terms of voices around politics/social justice/etc, but I hadn’t really thought about it in the context of the crafty/maker world in the same way. So that’s something I need to think about and work on. And if part of the problem is that the highly visible part of the crafty community is overwhelmingly white/thin/cis/straight/etc, then we need to pair our individual attempts to diversify our feeds with putting pressure on the companies that have a lot of power over who is visible in the maker-world to diversify themselves. This seems to be happening now, which is great, and needs to continue!

BUT! There’s a very tokenistic way of thinking about this that can end up coming into play, and some of the ways this has been talked about have given me pause. If you find yourself feeling like you just need to go find a few BIPOC crafty folks (or some other marginalized group) and add them to your feed so that you’ve checked that box, think long and hard about whether you’re actually tokenizing those people. Because it’s NOT a box to be checked off, and thinking about it in that way actually reinforces white supremacy, I think, because it’s still very “othering”. This work is really about changing who we mean by “we”, which is much, much deeper. Diversifying your feed is about opening yourself up to perspectives and ideas and lived experiences that are different from your own; it’s about listening to voices that aren’t the ones you’d hear if you didn’t make any effort to seek them out, and valuing those voices. And it’s also about amplifying those voices, bringing them truly into the conversation, so that future generations can simply know that they ARE part of this community, because they see themselves represented in it, at every level. It’s definitely not about checking a box – it’s a values shift. (I really like what Courtney Martin has to say about this in terms of “good optics” vs. real diversity.)

I have a lot more thoughts and questions about the way social media platforms make possible both very positive and negative things. Positive things like bringing people together globally and making it possible for marginalized communities to connect and be heard in unprecedented ways, and negative things like mob pile-ons, trolling, doxxing, wide-scale abuse, and bad actors sowing discord for the sake of maintaining their own power. I worry a lot about how we grapple with the way social media can accelerate and amplify interactions beyond anything our social brains evolved to handle, and how we promote an ethos of compassion and accountability given all of the things, good and bad, that social media makes possible…but I started thinking through these things and before I knew it, I’d written over 4,000 words (I told y’all I think in “long form”!), so I’ll stop here instead, with a question:

My new Ravelry button, with a leaf from M.

I’ve been pondering whether I should change the username I’ve had since the very beginning of my internet life. For those who don’t follow me other places, the username I’m talking about is “zigeunerweisen”, which is the name of a violin piece by Pablo de Sarasate (link is to Itzhak Perlman performing it) that I was learning to play, and loving, back in the early days of being an online person, starting with my Livejournal (ah, remember those days?) back in 2002. I also loved that it was a German word, because German is my second language (I’m not fully fluent in it, though!). The reason I’m thinking about this is that while my intention was and is to reference the violin piece, I know that intention is not necessarily transparent to anyone. A comment on the Ravelry thread about racism in the yarn community mentioned an issue with “gypsy” references in pattern names, and this made me think. See, the “zigeuner” part of my username means “gypsy” in German. I don’t feel that great about having a “gypsy” reference, even auf Deutsch, in my username, because I know that word is used as a slur in English. Is it a slur in German, though? (It looks like the answer is “yes”…maybe?) Navigating these issues in a non-native language adds another layer of complication for me! No one has ever said anything to me about it, but I know better than to think that necessarily means no one has ever been made uncomfortable. I’m interested in what others think about this.

I’m also grappling with the logistics that would be involved if I did decide to change the username I’ve used my entire “Internet life”. My “zigeunerweisen” username is typically my “friends-locked” name on sites where I also have a public account (like IG and Twitter), and on all of those sites, it’s the feed on which I’m most fully “me”…partly *because* it’s friends-locked and I feel safer that way. Well over a decade worth of stuff is under this name at Flickr, and then there’s a decade worth of Twitter and there’s Ravelry and Instagram and…oof, I don’t even know how I’d go about doing this without literally irrevocably breaking everything (especially because I use Flickr embedding for ALL of my photos here on the blog, so if those links break, there’s nothing!). But the fact that changing it would be hard for me isn’t itself a reason not to do it – it’s just a reason why I might need some help making it *actually* happen, if it’s something that I decide needs to happen. I’m all ears, friends!